November 6 2017

Dan Harden Seminar 5/12/2017 – 5/14/2017

Group of Yahoos

Randall Smith hosted a Dan Harden seminar for the weekend of May 12, 2017 through May 14, 2017, at his Boca Raton, FL dojo, Aikido of Palm Beach County. For those of you who don’t know Dan or his work, you can find it here at his site Body Work Seminars.  

There were a couple new faces in attendance. Which is always great. Otherwise it was the same band of yahoos who are a great bunch of guys.

Once again, I am months late in posting my thoughts about a seminar. So, I am working of my notes. I like committing my experiences when the memories are fresh.

Anyway, Dan taught a bunch of great stuff as usual. Here’s a few of the nuggets that I wrote down in my notes and have been concentrating on.

20 Degrees More

The first thing is 20 degrees more. What Dan was saying about this was that once you reach that point, stretch/feel/go 20 degrees more.

The physical example we were working on while he said this was stretching your shoulders back while laying your scapulars flat across your back. While doing this, or any stretch, push yourself to get that little extra.

For me, when I do this, I feel more of a pull not just in the muscle, but also in the fascia. I feel a connection extending from my fingers and up through my shoulders. Besides feeling awesome, their is an increased awareness of my body’s interconnectedness.

The ultimate goal would be to get this feeling throughout my whole body, all at once, all the time.

Why is Marcello the only guy kneeling?

Go Soft

The second concept I took note of was to go soft. This is my ever present martial arts prayer.

For me, this is the easiest concept to grasp but the hardest to implement. Application of this idea requires a rewiring of my automatic responses. Um…yeah…gonna take some work…

The idea is to be soft enough that you can feel your opponent. This is difficult. The automatic response is that your muscles tense up.

I have written about this concept previously. It’s the main concept in advanced martial arts.

Pull Skin

You need to learn to be soft to be able to pull skin. But you can learn to be soft when learning to pull skin.

So when pulling skin you touch your opponent light enough to feel their skin moving as you move your fingers over the surface of their skin.  When done properly you will witness your partner moving to your light touch.

I believe it gets your opponents fascia moving. This is also a central concept to Systema.


Good Danism I picked up from this seminar(paraphrased): Think of the jo extending to work on your awareness of the focal points of movement

Think about that for a while.

Almost everyone is smiling
October 8 2017

Dan Harden Seminar 1/6/2017 – 1/8/2017

I was going through my notes because I have not kept up with my seminar postings. I see that I missed posting this Dan Harden seminar at Randall Smith’s dojo, Aikido of Palm Beach County. Anyone who knows Dan knows his Ancient Traditions * Modern Combatives work located here.

So, this post is out of chronological order. And its going to bug me eternally that it is so.

I did not attend this seminar because I had other obligations that weekend.  I did go up on Sunday morning before church to see what was going on. I saw Dan Harden for an hour and still picked up a few nuggets of great information.

I also don’t have pictures to post. Arrrgggghhhhh!!!!!!

While I was there standing in the door and interrupting the class,  Dan was going over the iron mountain pose. This pose is where you drop your weight from the perineum and stretch your spine up, creating two opposing forces and a stable body structure.

One of my questions I asked Dan was about stretching your shoulders from the biceps as your doing the mountain pose. In classic Dan style, he said that is correct to do that but that was not what he was showing. I still pestered him for an answer. For those of you that know Dan you will understand. It’s all good.

Stretching from the biceps while in mountain pose is accomplished thusly:  rotate your arms out by twisting your biceps out. This has the effect of dropping your shoulders down, flattening your scapulas on your back, widening your chest and stretching your chest muscles.

Most of us twist our arms out by merely twisting our palms out. This is no where near correct and does not produce the profound effect Dan teaches.

Dan further went on to say that stretching the muscles to the point of exhaustion is where you find the connection between yin and yang.

It is highly effective and feels awesome. I do this exercise on a regular basis and will continue to do so.

July 22 2017

Dan Harden Intensvie One Day Seminar 4/2/2017

Selfie pic of the attending practitioners

Dan Harden came into Boca to hold a one day intensive seminar at Randall Smith’s dojo on April 2, 2017. For those of you who don’t know Dan, you can check out his website here at Body Works Seminars. And for those of you who don’t know Randall you can check out his website here at Aikido of Palm Beach County. I must also mention the Peter Bernath 7th Dan Shihan from Florida Aikikai was there training. I really admire the fact that he is constantly seeking to up the ante. He has been my primary sensei since 1998.

I have trained under these gentlemen for a number of years now.  I hold them in the highest esteem and feel blessed that I get to train with them on a fairly regular basis.

Dan went over a few things. He’s got a lot to give. But for the first two hours he went into breathing exercises. I found this particularly exciting and productive since I had recently started focusing my practice on breath and its effect on body control.

Dan stated that we are prisoners of our own breath. How true.

More selfie pics with the selfie stick

My own experience has been that I hold my breath when being hit or hitting. This increases tension in the body and makes my movements tighter than they already are.

Dan was teaching that to free yourself from the tension you have to connect your breath to your movement. Breath out and through the tension. Release it.

When I do that, I can feel layers being peeled away. I gain deeper access to my underlying structure. My shoulders and hips drop while the spine rises.

I believe this is the cornerstone of Dan’s philosophy. Breathe properly to gain maximum benefit and live.

Dan showed this exercise about breathing in and compressing the diaphragm down while pulling up the perineum. It has the effect of pulling down your upper body into your center and pulling your lower body into your center.

The upper and lower meet at the center. If you are breathing properly, you can feel the tension releasing from your extremities and building in your stomach.

Dan holding me back from aggressive use of the selfie stick

Contrary to releasing all tension. But this was an exercise whose purpose was to show the power of proper breathing and its effect on the body.

When breathing, you are not to let your stomach go out when you breath in or out. This is not what we are used to.

By not letting the stomach go in and out when breathing, your lungs will fill and your upper body rises as your lower body goes down. It feels like an internal wave. And you can feel the build up and release.

Tariq and I as the grounds in the French press

Dan gave the analogy of being a French press. You are pushing in the grounds and the energy/breath goes out through your extremities.

You can feel it, all of it. Your muscles releasing. A connection to your center. Your spine straightening and activating.

It’s always great training with Dan Harden. I encourage you to visit his site and attend his seminars. They are fun and informative.

The end of the seminar
June 17 2017

Florida Aikikai Winter Seminar 11/11/2016 – 11/13/2016

Outdoor Kamiza

The seminar this year was excellent as usual. Lots of aikidoka from everywhere.

Yamada Sensei stretching

Yamada Sensei taught on Saturday at the first class. His classes are always informative. He has the real classic style of aikido with big sweeping movements and a focus on distance.

He did a few nikkyo variations. What I always get from his nikkyo is a sense of distance from your opponent.  He keeps a lot of space between himself and his attacker with the concentration on manipulating the wrist.

Pimsler Sensei taught after Yamada Sensei. He continued with the nikkyo theme. His approach to nikkyo differed from Yamada Sensei’s.

Pimsler Sensei did a small circle nikkyo. He focused on applying pressure right into that spot in the wrist where the hand meets the forearm.

Indoor Kamiza

Pimsler Sensei demonstrated a nikkyo where he brought his uke’s hand up to his (sensei’s) collar bone and slightly bending forward into uke’s wrist, he  concentrated his power and focus into that point. Result, uke going down in pain. I feel for ya. Been there. Done that.

Waite Sensei is always a treat. He moves like wind over a lake. The guy is  just smooth.

His movements are effortless and full of intent. He doesn’t tense up make a move work. He lets it flow and the move happens. I always get the impression he is thinking two moves ahead.

Zimmerman Sensei had a calm approach to his aikido. It might be a personality trait, but what I mean is that he was unfazed by any attacks or his response. He appeared to be emotionless. Which I like.

Pimsler, Bernath and Zimmerman senseis grading testers

If you don’t show emotion you are in control of yourself. Your tension is under control and you generally move the speed of your attacker. You blend.

This is what he was doing and showing. I also noticed that he used small circle movements when demonstrating nikkyo and kotegashi.

Bernath Sensei needs no words. The guy rocks. I have the pleasure to train under him constantly since I am a member of his dojo and have been since 1998.

But I will say something. What I always take away from him is harnessing that primal power. He has it and naturally accesses it.

I don’t have anyway of expressing how he does it. He’s a natural.

As an example, he was working from a wrist grab. He effortlessly sucked his attacker into his sphere and blasted him with a powerful response.

It appeared as though it was all in time with his breath. Breathing in when taking on the attacker an breathing out when expelling him.  Good stuff.

Konigsberg sensei keeping his shoulders down

Konigsberg Sensei was awesome as usual. He was teaching to drop your shoulders and not to bunch up and tense your muscles. When you do that you stop the flow of the motion.

I have some great video of him teaching this but it exceeds the size limits on this site. So until I can figure out how to upload it, it remains in my files. Bummer.



April 2 2016

Dan Harden Internal Power Seminar 2/27/2016

2016-02-27 Dan Harden Seminar 4Dan Harden came down to Randall Smith’s dojo, Aikido of Palm Beach County on February 27, 2016 for a one day intensive. Intensive sums it up in one word.

I have to admit that we are lucky to have such access to Dan. I guess he likes training the group at Randall’s because he keeps coming back. And the same group of us, have been consistently training with Dan for five years now. Time flies.

This was a really good last minute notice seminar. Meaning, Dan gave Randall notice at the last minute that he would be here in Boca Raton and to amass the troops for some training. No argument from me or from the others in attendance.

Ok, so here’s the deal. This seminar Dan went over some deep internal stuff. By deep, I mean esoteric, sublime, introspective, and any other applicable synonym.

It’s hard to put Dan’s teachings into words.  You have to practice it, feel it and understand it. Then try putting it into words. It’s like trying to explain color to a blind man or the sound of music to a deaf person.

Anyway, the first concept I took away from this seminar was flesh down, bones in, and energy up. We did a number of breathing exercises to engage this idea. I am only going to talk about one exercise though.

The exercise that we did, and which I am now doing daily in my solo practice, is to stand and breath. Easy right?

sacroliliacTo do the exercise you stand, breathe into your stomach so that you are expanding your stomach out and dropping the air into your pelvic shelf. Breathing out, you stretch up your spine and push out your back where the two dimples are located, the sacroiliac. Doing so makes you feel completely stable and grounded.

But wait, there’s more. While doing the above, you need to concentrate where your points of energy are going. Whole different topic, but part of the exercise.

I concentrate on either the macrocosmic orbit going up your spine, circling over your head, down your front and circling back up through your spine. An energy continuum.

Or I concentrate on effusing energy from all and every point of my being. Like I am a Stretch Armstrong doll and pulling myself in every direction, from the inside.

Now, to get to the original point of flesh down, bones in, and energy up.

While doing the above, you are to let your flesh hang down, pull your bones in and feel your energy raising up through your spine and up through the crown of your head. It’s a really cool feeling.

Even if you can only get the flesh down, bones in and energy up, for the time being while you are standing, its a start. Practicing this, I believe, will give you a good grasp on manipulating your internal states. Just my humble opinion.

One last thing I want to mention, but not go into detail on, is the practice of elbows in, hands out; elbows out, hand in; elbows over hands. Figure that one out.

As always, this post is my interpretation of what I got from Dan’s teachings. I am not always correct, unless you ask me in person, then I am always right.

Ok,ok. If you want the real deal, go to one of his seminars.

2016-02-27 Dan Harden Seminar 5

February 28 2016

Dan Harden Internal Power Seminar 1/29/16 – 1/31/16

2016-01-30 Dan Harden Seminar 3 Dan Harden from Body Work Seminars, came down for a seminar at Randall Smith’s dojo Aikido of Palm Beach County. By now, anyone reading this blog knows Dan and Randall. Two awesome martial arts guys.

So yea I am late in posting again. It’s turning into my norm. Its not for lack of going over my notes. It’s just being busy running a law practice.

2016-01-30 Dan Harden Seminar 1This was an interesting seminar. And there is one big thing I took away from it that will be the focus of this post. That is the rowing exercise.

The rowing exercise is extremely important and often overlooked because of its simplicity. But training in this exercise will increase your centeredness and stability.

I do the rowing exercise daily and have been for many years. It was good to go over it and assess how I have been doing it, which has only been slightly correct.

Dan was explaining that when you do the rowing exercise you want to be saddled evenly over your hips. This gives you stability and center.

The stance is to have one leg forward, one leg back and hips evenly displaced. You want your weight evenly distributed through out the movement.

The movement is to push your hands forward, closing your body and then pulling your hands back, opening your body. Breathe out on closing and in on opening.

On the forward row, the closing movement, you want your knee slightly passing over your foot and your rear leg stretched as if forming a solid beam from your foot up through your spine and out your crown.

On the rear row, the opening movement, you want your hips in line and balanced over femural headsyour pelvis and hips; the pelvic shelf and femural heads. You also want your your chest out and expanded, laying your scapulars flat across your back and rolling your shoulder muscles back to make that happen.

You want to move as a unified body.

This is essential to understanding the concept of bowing. Rowing out bows your back and rowing in closes that bow.

Bowing is one of the ways to generate power for your overall movements.

The most common mistake when rowing is to sit back on your hips. This occurs on your open motion when you are rowing back into your chest. Your body naturally wants to sit back on the most rear hip. This would be the hip of the leg extending back.

The problem with doing it like this is that you automatically put your self out of whack. You go to an unstable position.

Where you want to be is centered over your hips and feeling the rear leg going up through your body and head. You want to feel the connection going from your rear leg foot, up through your spine and out the top of your head.

Sitting back on your rear leg interrupts this connection. You want the connection.

By the way, your body naturally wants to rest on the hip. So you need to train yourself to move correctly. Its not easy.

I have been doing the rowing exercise with a jo. I find this helps me center my hips over both my legs.Its like the jo is a guide for positioning my pelvic girdle over the femural heads.

Which is surprisingly hard to do since each femural head and hip socket joint moves separately. I visualize them as a chameleons eyes twirling around independent.

I had three good pictures to post this time. So here you go.

2016-01-30 Dan Harden Seminar 2

January 9 2016

Dan Harden Internal Power Seminar 11/14/15 – 11/15/15

2015-11-14 Harden seminar 1 Yes I am very late in posting this. Holidays, three seminars back to back, work. What can I say. I was drafting it, just didn’t get a moment to post it.

Anyway, Dan Harden came down to Randall Smith’s dojo, Aikido of Palm Beach County, for a seminar. Let me sum it up in one word: Awesome!

It’s always great, on many levels, engaging with Dan. Besides the marital training aspect, he’s just a wonderful person to talk to. He speaks his mind and can back up his opinions with fact. It doesn’t get any better than that. I argue for a living, so I know.

Plus, we have a great group of practitioners who always show up for Dan. And its always time well spent with them. Looking at the picture above, you can see we are not pretty, but we are effective.

Let me insert a disclaimer before I launch into my learning experience with Dan. What I post on here is strictly my interpretation of what I learned from him. It may be right and it may be wrong. The memory has a funny way about remembering things exactly as they happened.

If you want authentic training, seek out Dan at one of his seminars. You can get more info at Bodyworks Seminars.

Now on to what I learned this last time with Dan.

We went over some of the core principles. This is a necessity. I need to have the basics constantly drilled into my head.

The basics being spiraling, bowing, center, and all directions. If you don’t have these, you got nothing.

Dan tested us on our knowledge and use of the basics. Yes, he tested us.

Dan had us all stand, lengthen our spines, and extend energy in all directions. He then came around to each one of us and gently pushed to see who would topple over. Of course, I caved. I didn’t have it. And I think all but three of us failed.

After Dan determined who didn’t have it, which was the bulk of us, he had us re-align ourselves and concentrate on accessing from the center. It worked like a charm. We all held steady upon the attempt to push us off balance.

Sounds like small stuff. But its essential. Without understanding the concept of extending your energy in all directions, you can’t move onto more complex things.

For me, practicing this exercise, extending energy in all directions, actually has the feeling of stretching my fascia in conjunction with feeling my center. The two are connected.

Dan showed a us a new exercise that I have since implemented into my daily solo training. Its this really cool bicep spiral training exercise.

The idea is to stand straight, aiming your biceps straight ahead, gently closing your fists with your index finger pointing forward. Its important to have your biceps and index fingers lined up in the same direction and to keep them that way during the exercise.

So after you get lined up, you concentrate on moving only your bicep muscle. You spiral it to the outside and then back. Its important to make sure its your biceps moving and not your index fingers.

I have been practicing this since I learned it. The effect is that it has given me a better understanding of bowing and shoulder movement. Its subtle and powerful.

Dan also gave two quotes that stuck with me:

  1. Leave the front in front
  2. Leave the center in center

I can’t elaborate on the quotes because there is no elaboration. There is only the processing of their meaning.

I think it would be appropriate to start referring to Dan quotes as “Danisms”.

For anyone interested, Dan is scheduled to come down to  Aikido of Palm Beach County on January 29, 30 and 31 for an Internal Power Development Seminar. For more information contact Randall Smith.

I can’t wait to train with Dan some more. I consider myself extremely lucky to have such continued and consistent access to him.

January 31 2015

Dan Harden Seminar 1/23 thru 1/25/2015

Harden 1 25 15Dan Harden came down to Aikido of Palm Beach County for a seminar last weekend. It was awesome as usual.

I was only able to attend Saturday and Sunday afternoon because of family obligations. Family first.

Apparently Dan showed alot of above top secret stuff that I missed. Bummer.

Dan did seem to be in a real serious mood this time. He wasn’t his regular jovial self. I expect that is because he was teaching the more intense stuff.

Dan did say at the end of the seminar that he was showing our group more stuff because its the same regulars continually showing up. And that most of them are showing marked improvement.

I don’t think I made the cut this time however. I wasn’t doing much right this seminar.

I did take one important thing from Dan this time that I have not heard before. He said the point of practicing sword cuts is to get your dantian moving, its not to build your shoulders. Which means that your real strength and power comes from your insides, your center. Not from just your muscle.

THere was also another exercise Dan did that had to do with raising your arm/hand to meet your attackers oncoming grip. But the purpose of it was to learn how to connect to a different set of muscles instead of just using your shoulders. The idea is to get your shoulders rotating in their sockets and to have the muscle over your shoulder and down your back moving your opponent.

Nice to know after doing years and thousands of sword cuts. Needless to say, I will be changing my sword cuts to make sure this happens. I am also changing my solo practice to connect deeper with the internals.

May 18 2014

Dan Harden Seminar May 16-18, 2014 Boca Raton FL

Dan Harden came down again to Randall Smith’s dojo, Aikido of Palm Beach County. Those in attendance came from Aikido, Daitoryu, Systema, Tai Chi, grappling and one newbie who is just starting out and has no background yet. God bless him. He’s off to a good start.

I believe I accomplished a lot this weekend. I feel as though I had a greater understanding of my internal energy. For instance, in one exercise we were doing, where my partner would push my chest trying to push me over backwards, I would raise my hands above my head and drop the energy down from my hands to the ground.

The idea of the lesson was to feel your energy mimicking and matching your partners. To match the yin with the yang. And it was working.

There was without a doubt, a feeling of the energy moving down from my hands, through my arms, body and going underneath my partner. I even told my partner, a Tai Chi guy, that the feeling I had and the accompanying mental image was that of a cold blast of air hitting the heat and billowing out down across the floor.

There was a new exercise that I picked up that I am going to implement in my daily practice. It involved holding your hands in front of your dantian and rotating them first in a clockwise direction and then again in a counter clockwise direction as you intentfully imagine your dantian moving in the same clockwise/counter clockwise fashion.

The idea is to have both moving in conjunction, one influencing the other. Over time and with much practice, and once its natural in your system, your body will move to the expression of the dantian with the ultimate reality being that your dantian influences your whole body movement.

It started making more sense this time around. It was clearer. All the solo practice that I have been continually doing over the last year, is starting to manifest.

I read what I am writing and I think, “how hokey, how new age.” But the facts are that there is something powerfully sublime happening and its real.

I will keep practicing Dan’s stuff and keep attending his seminars. Its got me.


March 1 2014

Dan Harden Seminar January 31-February 3, 2014 in Boca Raton FL

DH Seminar 2-2-14(2)Again, I must admit that I dropped the ball in posting my thoughts and experiences for this particular Dan Harden Seminar. A late post, but here goes.

The more seminars I take from Dan, the more I get out of it. I have attended a few of his classes. But with each one, I experience a new level of understanding about what he is teaching. For instance, spiraling used to confound me. Every time I worked on it, it felt like all I was doing was stretching. (A great stretch by the way.)

Now though, I can feel the spiral working through my system. And its a feeling that the spiral is infused into the musculature such that a I can feel sublime energy working its way from the inside out. Essentially, generating internal power to drive the physical structure.

I would have no way of identifying this properly if not for the continual training with Dan and the reaffirmation of his teachings. Browbeat comes to mind. And I say this with all due respect. If you take a Dan Harden seminar you will understand. He’s got a great way of teaching.

One of the things I took away this time was Training, Timing and Distance. This is how I remember it; training to be soft, timing to engage your opponent and distance in order to activate the other two. If you are too distant from your opponent, then training and timing are moot as it applies to engagement. On the other hand, if your distance is too close, then you have to activate your softness and time yourself to your opponent’s attack.

Easier said than done. Believe me. My constant issue is not being soft. I carry my shoulders high and muscles tense. Can’t help it. They have actually nick named me “gorilla hands” among other things, which I can’t repeat here in polite society. All good though. It builds camaraderie.

Right or wrong, this is what I took away this time and how I continue to process it.

One more thing. We have formulated a great training group. We might not look like much, but that’s a good thing. You won’t see it coming.